Skip to content

Playing with something to prove: Players in contract years

Norm Hall / National Hockey League / Getty

Follow theScore's fantasy feed on Twitter (@theScoreFantasy) for the latest news, features and more.

Rather than focusing on the big name free agents for the 2017 offseason, this article will zero in on mid-tier players who could outplay their average draft position. Players such as Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Mikkel Boedker and Jamie McGinn turned (near) career years into nice paydays this past offseason.

There's also a chance some of these players get dealt at the trade deadline. Both Boedker and McGinn were moved at last year's deadline and enjoyed success down the stretch. This certainly helped them make a few extra bucks during free agency negotiations. The following players could have similar success. Some could be dealt at the deadline as well.

C Martin Hanzal, Coyotes

Chance of being moved at deadline? Very high

Hanzal enjoyed the best offensive season of his career in 2015-16, recording 41 points in just 64 games played. Staying healthy has been a problem for the 6-foot-6 center, as he has not played more than 65 games since 2009-10.

As a pass-first center, Hanzal's point totals have been hurt by a lack of help surrounding him throughout his career. However, he is projected to play between phenoms Max Domi and Anthony Duclair after forming good chemistry with them last year.

With rookie Dylan Strome literally the only competition for first-line center and No. 1 power-play minutes, Hanzal could register 60 points if he stays with the Coyotes all season long. If he get's traded at the deadline, it would likely be to a contender where he would slot in as a third-line center.

Hanzal had 126 hits last season and can provide outstanding value in the late rounds of banger leagues.

RW Drew Stafford, Jets

Chance of being moved at deadline? High

Stafford will get an opportunity to play in what could turn out to be a very potent top-six forward group. Right now he is expected to skate with C Bryan Little and rookie RW Patrik Laine on the second line. If Laine turns out to be a sensation, Stafford could surpass his career high of 30 assists.

Even if Laine moves up to the first line with C Mark Scheifele and RW Blake Wheeler, sophomore LW Nikolaj Ehlers would be dropped to the second line. Ehlers experienced his ups and downs during his rookie campaign, but he tallied 11 points in 13 games after Andrew Ladd was traded, opening up a top-six role.

Regardless, Stafford will get to play alongside an exciting young player. Draft him in the final rounds of standard leagues. Scoring 25 goals and adding 30 assists isn't out of the question.

C Nick Bonino, Penguins

Chance of being moved at deadline? Very low

Bonino tallied only 29 points in 63 games last year. This will likely leave him as an afterthought in most leagues. Yet, Pittsburgh's offense caught fire in the second half of the season. Much of this was due to the formation of a line including Bonino alongside the speedy Carl Hagelin and the skilled Phil Kessel.

Of Bonino's 29 points, 16 of them came in the final 13 games of the season, when he played exclusively with Hagelin and Kessel. Bonino was a key cog in Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup Championship, recording 18 points in 24 playoff games.

If Bonino can translate his late-season magic over a full year, it wouldn't be surprising to see him wind up with 50-60 points. After all, he Hagelin and Kessel will now have a full 82 games to play with each other.

RW T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Chance of being moved at deadline? Very low

Luckily for Oshie, free agency doesn't come down to 100 percent grit, nor 100 percent skill. It comes down to production, and he could produce at a career-high rate this season.

Oshie already set a career high in goals last year with 26. Playing parallel to Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom certainly helped, and he will get a chance to do so once again. The more he plays with these two superstars, the more chemistry he will gain. Don't be surprised if he tallies 65 points, which would surpass his career high of 60, set with the St. Louis Blues in 2013-14.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox